Pill had thoughts of hanging 'em up last spring


Pill had thoughts of hanging 'em up last spring

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. When a career infielder is asked topatrol the outfield, there is nothing liberating about all that wide-open space.

More like terrifying.

This spring, Brett Pill is trying to cover it as best hecan. Despite all of two career games (and one chance) in the outfield over hissix-year professional career, the Giants are hoping Pill can flag down theroutine stuff in left field, adding to his versatility as hes being consideredfor a bench role on the Giants opening-day roster.

A solid defensive first baseman, hes also taking groundballs at third base and second base. And hes uttering nary a complaint aboutit.

Liberating? Terrifying? None of it matters when you figuredyoud be out of baseball in 2012.

I was off the (40-man) roster. I was going to Double-A,said Pill, considering his meager place at this time last year. I wasnthaving any fun.

I was taking it like it was my last year.

The background: Pill was not considered apremium prospect out of Cal State Fullerton, but the Giants added him to the40-man roster after a banner 2009 season (.298, 109 RBIs at Double-A) toprotect him from being snagged in the Rule 5 draft. It was the best and worstthing that happened to him. Being on the 40-man only made him anxious to provehimself worthy of a call-up that never came in 2010.

I beat myself up, Pill said. I saw my average on thescoreboard and I didnt let myself have fun at all. We had a really good team,actually, at Fresno and I shouldve been enjoying it. But I was too individual.I was trying to get called up and it didnt happen.

He had an unimpressive season in the hitter-friendly PacificCoast League, which might be permissible for a first-round pick but not aself-made prospect like Pill. So he found himself designated for assignmentwhen it was over, sacrificed so his roster space could go to someone else worthprotecting.

Any team couldve taken him. All of them passed.

In the spring of 2011, Pill found himself back in minorleague camp, a 26-year-old lockering next to teenagers. He was working out withthe Double-A group at Indian School Park a clear sign of what theorganization thought of him. He figured this would be his last hurrah beforefinding some other line of work.

Like what, exactly?

Ah, well, I didnt get that far, he said, with a laugh. Itried to get that out of my mind. I just wanted to play the year like I hadnothing to lose. Just take it back to playing baseball with my brother in thefront yard, swinging a Whiffle ball bat. I told myself, Thats when you playedbecause its fun. Do it for fun again.

Then something serendipitous happened. Outfielder Cody Rosspulled a calf muscle late in the spring while running after a fly ball at TempeDiablo Stadium. He began the year on the disabled list. As a result, the Giantsdecided to beef up their lineup by making Brandon Belt the opening-day firstbaseman.

The shuffle impacted Pill, too. He was about to get squeezedout of Fresno by Belt and journeyman DH Brad Eldred. Instead, suddenly, there was a place for Pill with theGrizzlies. And he made the most of it. Through August, he had a .312 average,25 home runs, 36 doubles, 107 RBIs and an .871 OPS.

Belt returned to Fresno in late April after scuffling in thebig leagues, but Pill didnt lose his opportunity to play. Fresno manager SteveDecker asked him to try taking grounders at second base. Its a thought thatwouldnt have popped into anyones head, except Pill was raking. Decker wantedto keep him in the lineup, somewhere.

I guess I dont really ask questions, Pill said. It wasmy most successful year and it was also the most fun I had. It was, Swinghard. What the heck? Even playing second base. I just said, Ill do this thebest I can. From my first at-bat, I was smiling.

He had plenty more to smile about. At the end of August, theGiants solved a roster logjam by eating millions. They cut Miguel Tejada andAaron Rowand, which freed up space to purchase Pills contract and promote him.

He pledged to have fun there, too. And he did. He became thefirst Giant in a quarter-century to hit a home run in his first major leagueat-bat.

Will the Thrill didnt homer in his second game. Pill the Thrilldid, becoming the 22nd player in major league history to go deep ineach of his first two big league games. They were two of the Giants' brightest momentsin an otherwise disappointing, saddening, injury-wrecked year.

Pill doesnt like to revel in his successes, but after theseason, his parents practically forced him to sit down in front of the TV withthem as they warmed up their DVR.

Sitting there and hearing Vin Scully talk about you, or JonMiller or Krukow and Kuiper wow, Pill said. Its cool to experience that.

Pill is back on the major league side this spring and he isvery much in the running for a key spot on the roster. The feather in his capis his right-handed power a commodity the Giants lack off the bench. Becausehis swing is so simple and easy to maintain, club officials believe he could beproductive in a reserve role.

And thats why were moving him around, to take a look atit, manager Bruce Bochy said. Whether its (Aubrey) Huff, Belt or Pill, werewanting them to look comfortable and make the average play. As a manager, youwant all the options you can get. I dont want to put someone out there if Idont know whether they can catch a routine fly ball.

Pill hasnt been tested thus far. In his first experience inleft field a week ago, he didnt receive a chance. On Thursday, he onlyretrieved a ground single through the left side. He also watched a Mike Carphome run fly over his head.

Playing second base wasnt too uncomfortable because yourestill on the infield, Pill said. But you go out there (to the outfield) andyou realize stuff. Like, Oh, there are fans behind you, and theyre alwaystalking.

The Giants front office is sure to keep talking, too. Tradesare part of spring training especially the final week. Perhaps anotherright-handed bat comes along. Or someone else gets injured and the Giantsdecide theyll need Pills roster spot to provide more coverage at anotherposition.

Pill has minor league options, so he could be sent back toFresno easily enough.

Well have to decide when we break camp, and it wont bedecided until then which way we may go with Brett, Bochy said.

Until then, Pill plans to go where hes told. Smiling allthe while.

Good news, bad news for Chris Shaw's first week in the Arizona Fall League

MiLB/Sacramento River Cats

Good news, bad news for Chris Shaw's first week in the Arizona Fall League

Every time the Journey song “Lights” plays throughout AT&T Park, the lyrics When the lights go down in the City ring too true for the Giants’ offense. There’s a power outage in San Francisco. 

The savior to this issue can soon be prospect Chris Shaw, who turns 24 years old on Oct. 20. Shaw, along with five other Giants prospects, is continuing his 2017 season among a multitude of baseball’s best young up-and-comers in the Arizona Fall League. As he takes the field for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Shaw’s bat is far from the top focus for the Giants. 

After playing right and left field at Boston College, the Giants turned Shaw into a first baseman once they selected the 6-foot-4, 235-pound lefty in 2015. This year, the Giants’ front office decided to make a change. As the big league team continued to look for their own answers, Shaw saw himself in left field in 94 of the 125 games he played between Double-A and Triple-A this season. 

“I saw improvements through the course of the year,” Brian Sabean said about Shaw’s outfield defense on The Giants Insider Podcast. “The problem is playing left field in our left field isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do.” 

The AFL is all about reps in left field for Shaw as the Giants have already said he will get a long look in spring training. He earned that right after a breakout year at the plate.

One week into the AFL though, Shaw’s bat is way behind. Through four games, Shaw is batting a pedestrian .133 (2-for-15), both hits being singles. But even in such a slow start there are positives. 

Shaw has walked three times to only two strikeouts. His only downfall at the plate once he reached Triple-A Sacramento was his on-base percentage fell from .390 in Double-A to .328 at the higher level. With the River Cats, Shaw struck out 106 times, leading the team, while taking his base 20 times.

One week in the desert, Shaw is showing more patience and putting the ball into play more often. The ball simply isn’t finding grass.

In the outfield, every ball Shaw sees -- practice or game -- during the AFL is a step in the right direction for he and the Giants. He is yet to make an error in his short time at the AFL. The big lefty will never be a guy to make the spectacular play, but if he improves his instincts with the glove and improves his eye at the plate, the Giants can finally have their left fielder of the future. 

Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster


Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster

LOS ANGELES — Shortstop Corey Seager has been left off the Los Angeles Dodgers' roster for the NL Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.

The Dodgers announced Seager's surprise omission due to a back injury on Saturday, several hours before Game 1 at Dodger Stadium.

Los Angeles also dropped reliever Pedro Baez from its roster. Infielder Charlie Culberson and outfielder Joc Pederson were added.

Chicago made only one change from the last playoff round, adding reliever Hector Rondon and removing reliever Justin Wilson.

Seager complained of back soreness during the Dodgers' NL Division Series clincher in Arizona on Monday, and 2016 NL Rookie of the Year didn't participate in team workouts this week. Still, manager Dave Roberts said Friday that he was very optimistic that Seager would play in the NLCS.

Seager was an All-Star selection this season while batting .295 with 22 homers and 77 RBIs as a key part of the top of the Dodgers' lineup.

Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Culberson all worked out at shortstop Friday for the Dodgers. The versatile Taylor was the Dodgers' center fielder during the NLDS, but he made 96 appearances in the outfield this season and 44 in the infield, including 14 games at shortstop.

Pederson is batting .071 with no homers since July, but the Dodgers could need him in center field if Taylor plays shortstop.

Culberson famously homered to clinch the Dodgers' NL West title in announcer Vin Scully's final home game last season, but the infielder spent most of this season at Triple-A, appearing in only 14 games for the Dodgers.

Rondon was the Cubs' closer in 2014 and 2015, but moved to a setup role last season after Aroldis Chapman's arrival. He appeared in 61 regular-season games this year, going 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA in an up-and-down campaign.

Chicago acquired Wilson in a trade with Detroit on July 31, adding a veteran left-handed reliever who had 13 saves for the Tigers this season. The Southern California native wasn't great in his two months with the Cubs, posting a 5.09 ERA with 19 walks in 23 appearances.

Manager Joe Maddon chose Wilson for the NLDS over Rondon, only to switch it up against the Dodgers.